“Fight On!” USC Trojan Marching Band Director Shows You How

“Fight On!” USC Trojan Marching Band Director Shows You How“When you are passionate about something you do, why put an end to it?”  ~ Dr. Arthur C. Bartner, USC Trojan Marching Band Director

“I know that voice!”  No surprise there; the raspy roar that Dr. Arthur C. Bartner croaks out over his rock-n-roll sound system is definitely like no other. “Fight On!” USC Trojan Marching Band Director Shows You How“I’m probably more of a nuisance than the band to this campus because I get excited.’  Does he ever!  You really will be laughing-out-loud when you watch this short video of Bartner and see first-hand the energy with which he charges across the field shouting, “Get ‘em excited! Get ‘em excited! GET ‘EM EXCITED!!”

Directing a marching band to the greatness of the USC Trojan Marching Band has got to be the essence of leadership.  Bartner, the director for the last 42 years, has over 300 students from all majors, making music together.  And if that wasn’t enough, they are also marching in step and creating elaborate unified formations.

But what really distinguishes Barter is his passion for the band.    As the leader of one big pep rally, he is clearly the cheerleader-in-chief.  As one band member said, “the most amazing thing about band camp is the spirit.”

It wasn’t always that way.  When Bartner first came to USC in 1970, participating in the marching band was a dreaded obligation to fulfill the scholarship requirement for music majors.  Bartner did away with that requirement and opened it up to everyone.  Now more students want to participate than they have spots for, the majority of whom are engineering students.

The Spirit of Troy has had many spectacular accomplishments:  They have been featured in at least 10 major movies; performed in the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles; performed on the title track of the 1979 Fleetwood Mac album; they have two platinum records; they have performed around the world, including at Rome’s Coliseum, Hong Kong and Nagoya, Japan.  Each year the band plays the 1812 Overture with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra at the Hollywood Bowl.  And, those are only some of their accomplishments.

For me though, what really epitomized the Spirit of Troy was their 2011 Spring Concert where they played Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance.   Bartner, at 71 years old conducts the band with his own rendition of Lady Gaga moves, swishing and bobbing his head like a youngster.  You can see his delight as he looks around and watches the band members, all decked out in their uniforms, Trojan helmets, and sunglasses, put down their instruments and complete the intricate dance moves of the piece!   Watch Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance Spring Concert 2011 here.

The more I learned about Bartner, the more I wanted to understand how someone could sustain such a frenetic pace at a fever-pitch level of energy for so long.  I wondered why he wasn’t ready to pass on the baton.

His contribution to The Spirit of Troy’s greatness seems rather obvious.  But not so straightforward, how does he keep living the mantra of the Trojan’s “Fight On!”  himself?   To find some answers, I turned to Ellen Langer’s new book Counterclockwise.  Langer, professor of psychology at Harvard, has been researching mindfulness and aging for over 40 years and has demonstrated repeatedly how “our limits are of our own making.”

If you watched the video of Bartner, you won’t be surprised to learn that his voice has suffered from all those years of rants and roars.  “It’s amazing I have a voice at all.  Doctors have looked at it, I have nodes, my vocal cords are all stretched out, but it still works.”  For some, that would be a cue to hang it up, but not Bartner.

“Over time I have come to believe less and less that biology is destiny. It is not primarily our physical selves that limit us but rather our mindset about our physical limits. Now I accept none of the medical wisdom regarding the courses our diseases must take as necessarily true,” explains Langer.

Bartner does indeed have just the type of mindset that Langer is talking about, which may explain why he so successfully fights on.   “I don’t believe in getting sick,” Bartner asserts.

True to his word, in over 40 years, he has only missed one home game, and that wasn’t because he was sick, it was because there was a little scheduling glitch.  He was scheduled to lead an international band of 400 students at the opening of Epcot Center in Orlando, Florida in 1982.

Seems like Bartner fights on because he passionately believes that he can.   To that, I think Langer would say, “You go, dude!”

Do you have mindsets that may be limiting your own possibilities?  Does Bartner inspire you to consider how you might continue pursuing your passions, in spite of, any limitations that might be presenting themselves?

If you would like to be coached on shifting your own mindsets, please call me for a free complimentary session at 805.448.7681 or schedule a session using my on-line calendar.



p.s. I always am interested in what you think about these discussions. Please post your thoughts on the blog…your constructive criticism and support is appreciated!
Dr. Lynn K. Jones, Certified Personal and Executive Coach

Your MOJO Maven

Dr. Lynn K. Jones is a Certified Personal and Executive Coach based in Santa Barbara, California and a sought after coach and consultant for organizations and individuals across the US.   Her doctoral work completed at the Wurzweiler School of Social Work, Yeshiva University concerned organizational culture; she coaches, consults and trains organizations on what they need to do to create organizational cultures that are aligned with their vision and values using a process of Appreciative Inquiry.  She coaches individuals on achieving their reflected best selves.  An MSW@USC faculty member, Dr. Lynn K. Jones, MSW, DSW, CSWM, teaches Human Behavior and Social Environment.

Diane Haithman, Special to the Los Angeles Times, The Man Behind the Band at USC, September 4, 2011

Langer, Ellen J. (2009). Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility (pp. 10-11). Ballantine Books. Kindle Edition.


  1. Eddie Taylor on September 18, 2011 at 7:48 pm


    I would like to discuss your ideas about leading a 1 day strategic planning session for our United Way Board and advisors in February.


    • lynnkjones on September 20, 2011 at 8:13 pm

      Strategic Planning is an area of organizational development that I have a lot of expertise in. I would be delighted to talk to you about that. You can reach me at 805-448-7681.

  2. Calla Gold on September 18, 2011 at 8:10 pm

    He is an amazing man with an amazing attitude. He took a marching band that was more of a prison than anything and turned it into what it is today, and Bartner is still going strong. His is a great story, and a great example of the pure difference your attitude can make.

    • lynnkjones on September 20, 2011 at 8:14 pm

      A few years ago I read research that members of professional orchestras had lower job satisfaction that prison guards! So your analogy that he turned around something that was like a prison is very apt!

  3. anon on September 19, 2011 at 6:54 pm

    Interesting contrast between your last two blogs. From Asian serenity to pep-rally passion. I wonder if there’s a connection.

    • lynnkjones on September 20, 2011 at 8:17 pm

      The connection in my mind is mindfulness. Approaching challenges, whether it is a difficult event or a marching band, can be successfully accomplished with the “right” mindset.
      Thanks for helping me to think about that!

  4. Josie Tores on September 20, 2011 at 3:12 am

    The connection is optismism. Asia has leaders that are optimistic and The. Dr Arthur C. Bartner of U.S.C. remains positive inspite of Americas conditions he shows optimism by music which is considered Art in America. Music and many others types of Art are needed in America. We must create more art and artist. ‘Every piece of Art has a meaning Every culture has a famous Artist. Art expresses anger and confusion and or I will just say Emotions.

    • lynnkjones on September 20, 2011 at 8:19 pm

      I like your observations here. I think that art helps us to see the world in a new way. It calls our attention to details that have been outside of our every-day mental models. When we have the opportunity to see the world anew, new possibilities are created for us.
      Thanks for reading and commenting on my blog!

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